On 13 October, I presented a paper at the yearly Huizinga conference for PhD candidates. Due to the pandemic, the conference was held entirely online. My paper was entitled Familiar Foreigners. Poles through Dutch Eyes in the Seventeenth Century.
I discussed work in progress on the different ways in which the Dutch during the seventeenth century imagined the Polish people. Firstly, I analysed a variety of Dutch visualisations of ‘Poles’ and ‘Polishness’, ranging from engravings to gable stones and from paintings to ‘Polish’ stage costumes. While such representations were partly based on reality, a comparison with Dutch portraits of real Poles shows how these could break the mould. For whereas a Pole’s appearance was typically associated with the exoticism of the orient, and hardly differed from his Hungarian, Russian, or even Turkish counterparts, depictions of individuals could deviate from this pattern, as Poles navigated between ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western’ guises.
Secondly, I used several poems, travel accounts, and other sources to reconstruct the ways in which Dutch authors imagined Polish characters and customs. Typical Poles were identified as Sarmatians, a bellicose, brutal, and barbaric people, whose backward nature was shaped by the cold climate and severe living conditions of their homeland. However, these negative notions are challenged by several other sources, mainly Latin poems by Dutch authors in honour of their Polish friends. These compositions reveal that, despite the stereotypes, Dutch poets maintained and celebrated warm relations with Polish individuals in a variety of contexts, from scholarship to warfare to religion. Together, the visual and textual source material demonstrates that, through seventeenth-century Dutch eyes, Poles were familiar foreigners.
From 2 to 15 December, I am a guest researcher at The Tadeusz Manteuffel Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, which is located at the city’s Old Town Market Square. Besides doing research in Warsaw’s archives and libraries, I gave a presentation for members of the institute, entitled Polski Herkules:Północno-niderlandzka recepcja Jana III Sobieskiego w późnym siedemnastym wieku (The Polish Hercules: The reception of John III Sobieski in the Northern Netherlands during the late seventeenth century). I discussed the international importance of a series of prints made for the Polish king by the Dutch engraver Romeyn de Hooghe after Sobieski’s election in 1674, as well as the main characteristics of the wide range of poems and prints produced in the Northern Netherlands following his victory at the Battle of Vienna in 1683. The comments and questions I received were extremely helpful! My research stay is funded by an Erasmus+ scholarship.
On 15 November, I gave a paper presentation at Radboud University’s international conference Is Europe Inclusive? Together with prof. dr. Marguérite Corporaal, I organised a panel on conceptions of European centres and peripheries throughout the ages. In my paper, entitled Peripheral Polish Prussia? Contrasting Dutch Perceptions of Prussia and the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth during the seventeenth century, I argued that notions of centres and peripheries are ever changing and dependent on the observer. I used the case of Prussia, which during the nineteenth century was framed as the centre of Germanness, but which nowadays no longer exists as a geographic entity.
In my presentation, I posed the question how Prussia was perceived before its rise to power as an independent state, when during the seventeenth century it was under Polish rule. Royal Prussia, with Danzig as its most important port, was an integral part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1569 to 1772, while Ducal Prussia was a vassal of the Polish king from 1525 until 1660. The observers I chose, the Dutch, had strong economic and cultural ties with Prussia. Did the Dutch view Prussia, which was culturally similar to the Low Countries and of great economic importance to the Dutch Republic, as a centre, or rather as a periphery and a mere province within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth?
Using a variety of sources, I made clear that the Dutch had differing opinions about the region: while some sources preferred Prussia to Poland proper, saying that Prussian houses and grain were superior to Poland’s, other sources paint a different picture. Abraham Booth, who wrote the first Dutch eyewitness account of Poland-Lithuania, printed in Amsterdam in 1632, wrote an unflattering report of his journey through both Prussia and Poland. Negative elements were, for example, vast forests, cruel Polish soldiers, bad roads and shabby accommodations. This presentation is hardly surprising, as Booth wrote his account during a diplomatic mission to Prussia, in which the Dutch mediated between the Swedes and Poles after the Swedes had invaded Polish territory. The Dutch were officially allied with the Swedes, however. On the other hand, Poland and Prussia always feature favourably in the works of Joost van den Vondel, the most prominent Dutch poet of the seventeenth century. Vondel saw Prussia as belonging to Poland, and repeatedly praised the Commonwealth for its fertility and the role it played as a bulwark of Christendom. This no doubt had to do with Vondel’s Catholic sympathies. In this way, I hope to have shown that what constitutes a centre or a periphery is not fixed and easily measurable, but rather depends on the historical context and background of the observer.
On 7 November, Alan Moss and I gave a paper presentation in Utrecht, at an international conference entitled Memory and Identity in the Learned World: Community Formation in the Early Modern World of Science and Learning. The conference was organised by the members of the ERC-funded SKILLNET project. Our paper was entitled The Graves of Learned Men: Scholarly Identity on the Dutch and Polish Grand Tour, and discussed the ways in which seventeenth-century Dutch and Polish travellers gave expression to a scholarly identity by reflecting on so-called lieux de savoir, places of knowledge. While journeying through Europe, travellers would often visit such places and describe them in their travelogues. Popular destinations were the universities at Oxford, Leiden and Leuven, and so were the graves, birth places and statues of learned men like Erasmus, Lipsius, Grotius or the Scaligers. Some of these scholars also left behind ‘relics’, like a pen, a last will or even a skull. Alan and I gave various examples of Poles and Dutchmen describing such lieux de savoir, including the Dutch poet Caspar van Kinschot (1622-1649), who wrote several Latin compositions when visiting the house of the Scaligers in Agen.
On 24 October, humanities scholars gathered at Radboud University for the biennial Moving Humanities conference. PhD candidates and Research Master students from various humanities disciplines gave presentations on a topic important to all: finding meaning, be it in a specific source, sound or word, a historical development, or humanities research for society itself. Keynote speeches were given by prof. dr. Leonie Cornips, who spoke about the language of cows, and by prof. dr. Bas Haring, who shared his thoughts on how humanities research and the natural sciences can fruitfully engage with each other. The conference was funded by the Radboud Graduate School for the Humanities and was organised by Merijn Beeksma, Marc Colsen, Marieke van Egeraat, Aurélia Nana Gassa Gonga, Tara Struik and myself.
Tijdens de Historicidagen, die dit jaar van 22 t/m 24 augustus werden georganiseerd in Groningen, heb ik een paper gepresenteerd met als titel Een Ander Europa: De scheiding tussen Oost en West voorbij. Het thema van het congres was ‘inclusieve geschiedenis’. In mijn presentatie legde ik daarom uit waar de mentale scheiding tussen West- en Oost-Europa vandaan komt, hoe die ook nu nog wordt bestendigd en wat wij daar als historici aan kunnen doen, om zodoende tot een meer inclusieve geschiedenis van heel Europa te komen. Eén van de manieren: heb het in publicaties over de tijd vóór de Verlichting niet over ‘West-‘ of ‘Oost-Europa’, want die concepten ontstonden pas in de achttiende eeuw.
Op 4 en 5 april bracht een forse afvaardiging van de Afdeling Nederlandse Taal en Cultuur van de Radboud Universiteit een bezoek aan onze collega’s aan de Uniwersytet Wrocławski in Polen. De studie Nederlands trekt daar jaarlijks vele tientallen studenten: in totaal zijn het er zelfs 300!
Op de eerste dag gaf prof. dr. Lotte Jensen de studenten een lezing over de Nederlandse identiteit. Daarna volgde een expert meeting tussen de Nijmegenaren en onze Poolse collega’s: om de beurt vertelden we elkaar over lopend of afgerond onderzoek. Zelf vertelde ik over mijn onderzoek naar de zeventiende-eeuwse Nederlandse beeldvorming over Polen als de graanschuur van de Republiek. De volgende dag begon met een bezoek aan de Bijzondere Collecties van de universiteitsbibliotheek, waar dr. Joanna Skubisz ons meerdere oude Nederlandse drukken liet zien. We vervolgden de dag in de plaatselijke afdeling van het Muzeum Narodowe (Nationaal Museum), alwaar dr. Małgorzata Dowlaszewicz onze gids was. Tot slot kregen we een prachtige rondleiding door de historische stad, verzorgd door prof. dr. Stefan Kiedroń. Het bezoek was bovendien op touw gezet door dr. Jan Urbaniak.
Een blog door prof. dr. Lotte Jensen over dit bijzonder prettige en succesvolle bezoek is hier te vinden.
On the 18th of March, I presented a paper at the 65th Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, which took place in Toronto, Canada, from the 17th to the 19th of March. My paper was entitled ‘The Corn Shed of the World: The Evolution of a Seventeenth-Century Dutch Image of Poland-Lithuania’. As stated in my abstract:
The Dutch Republic owed much of its wealth to the trade in Baltic grain, most of which came from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The importance of this trade is clear from both economic and political developments. There is however also plenty of textual and visual evidence, which has not yet been taken into account. Using a variety of seventeenth-century sources, such as pamphlets, letters, travel accounts, poems and engravings, I will show how widespread the Dutch understanding of Poland-Lithuania’s pivotal role was, and how a Dutch image of Poland-Lithuania as a granary and fertile land of plenty developed over time. It will become clear that the Polish-Swedish wars of the 1620s and 1650s, as well as Dutch migration to Prussia, were crucial in this process. In addition, Joost van den Vondel and the Amsterdam agenda played a vital part in presenting Poland-Lithuania as “the corn shed of the world.”
On the 21st and 22nd of February 2019, researchers from both the Netherlands and abroad took part in a conference entitled ‘Foreign Eyes on the Republic: European Perspectives on the Republic and the Dutch in the Long Eighteenth Century’, organised by Alan Moss and myself at Radboud University in Nijmegen. The conference was funded by the Dutch-Belgian Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies and aimed to consider various perspectives of foreigners on the Dutch Republic during the long eighteenth century.
In my own paper, I made a comparison between the topics discussed in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Polish travel accounts of the Dutch Republic. A full description of all papers can be found on the conference’s website.
Op 22 januari gaf ik een lezing in het Design Museum te ‘s Hertogenbosch. Ik verzorgde de openingslezing in een reeks erfgoedcolleges, georganiseerd door de Erfgoed Brabant Academie. Ondanks de sneeuw was er een goede opkomst. Mijn lezing ging over het bezoek van de Poolse kroonprins Ladislas Sigismund Vasa aan het Beleg van Breda in 1624, alsmede over het literaire voortleven van die gebeurtenis in met name de Poolse literatuur. Ik schreef er al eerder een korte blog over, naar aanleiding van een artikel dat ik aan het onderwerp gewijd heb.